Rolling Down to Old Maui

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Rolling Down to Old Maui (Roud 2005) is a traditional sea song. It expresses the anticipation of the crew of a whaling vessel on its return to Maui after a season of whaling in the Kamchatka Sea.

The song's earliest known appearance in its current form was in Joanna Colcord's Songs of American Sailormen (1938), without a tune. However, the song is clearly related to the song Rolling Down to Old Mohee, collected from the 1858 log of the Atkins Adams.[citation needed]

It has been performed and recorded by several singers and bands, including The Dreadnoughts, Stan Rogers and Jon Boden. Its melody has also been used, in its entirety as well as in part, as the basis for many other folk songs and song parodies, such as "The Light-Ship" by Leslie Fish and "Falling Down on New Jersey" by Mitchell Burnside-Clapp.


It's a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo.
And we don't give a damn when the gale is done
How hard the winds did blow.
For we're homeward bound from the Arctic ground
With a good ship, taut and free
And we don't give a damn when we drink our rum
With the girls of Old Maui.

Rolling down to Old Maui, me boys
Rolling down to Old Maui
We're homeward bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to Old Maui.

Once more we sail with a northerly gale
Through the ice and wind and rain.
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
We soon shall see again.
Six hellish months have passed away
On the cold Kamchatka Sea,
But now we're bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to Old Maui.


Once more we sail with a northerly gale
Towards our island home.
Our mainmast sprung, our whaling done,
And we ain't got far to roam.
Our stu'n's'l bones/booms is carried away
What care we for that sound?
A living gale is after us,
Thank God we're homeward bound.


How soft the breeze through the island trees,
Now the ice is far astern.
Them native maids, them tropical glades
Is a-waiting our return.
Even now their big brown eyes look out
Hoping some fine day to see
Our baggy sails runnin' 'fore the gales
Rolling down to old Maui.


(The following verse is seen in some collections and performances of the song, but is not universal:)
And now we're anchored in the bay
With the Kanakas all around
With chants and soft aloha oes
They greet us homeward bound.
And now ashore we'll have good fun
We'll paint them beaches red
Awaking in the arms of a wahine
With a big fat aching head.


External links[edit]

  • Nelson-Burn, Lesley, "Rolling Down to Old Maui", Folk Music, Contemplator, retrieved 12 June 2006 .
  • Oak Ash & Thorn, retrieved 12 June 2006 .